The weekend of November 3-5th saw one of North America’s largest displays of aurora borealis (northern lights) this year, visible as far south as Colorado. While clouds obscured the display in the Apostle Islands, even cloudy skies could not dampen the enthusiasm of the several hundred skywatchers gathered at the Legendary Waters Resort in Red Cliff for Aurora Summit 23.
“The Aurora Chasers knocked it out of this world over the weekend at Aurora Summit 23,” said Melissa Kaelin, co-founder of the Aurora Summit, and author of Below the 45th Parallel: The Beginners Guide to Chasing the Aurora in the Great Lakes Region. “The speakers were inspiring, the venue was beautiful, and the sense of community was amazing.”
Begun in 2017, the Aurora Summit is an annual gathering and celebration with a mission of helping “people of all backgrounds and experience levels view, photograph, and understand the Northern Lights, while also developing an appreciation for the surrounding art, culture, science and photography of this rare natural phenomenon.”
This year’s gathering, the sixth annual Summit, was led by scientists, authors, professional photographers and community leaders, and featured a wide array of speakers and topics, all focused on the wonders of the night sky.
The weekend kicked off with a hands-on aurora photography workshop called “Bootcamp” led by the conference host Mike Shaw Photography.
Other topics and speakers included a look at the Anishinaabe view of the night sky with Red Cliff Tribal member Anna Martineau Merritt, “Northern Lights in Motion: How to Capture Timelapse of the Night Sky” with Vincent Ledvina, “AstroBob” King with a “Celebration and Explanation of the Aurora’s Many Forms” and more including a keynote address “Chasing Moon Shadows and Northern Lights” by Alan Dyer, co-author of The Backyard Astronomer’s Guide.
The event also featured displays of night sky art, a night photography clinic, information on the best aurora tours around the globe, and a rousing game of Aurora Jeopardy for fun.
Friends Executive Director Jeff Rennicke was also a speaker, presenting a program called “With New Eyes: Discovering the Beauty of the Apostle Islands & Its Dark Skies.”
“Many people know our islands are beautiful during the day,” Rennicke says, “but fewer understand how they can truly come alive after the sun goes down. With few major sources of light pollution, the Apostles have some of the darkest skies in the Great Lakes region, a gift to aurora hunters and star gazers and a resource that should be protected for everyone.”
With several hundred attendees representing 15 states and at least 3 Canadian provinces, Aurora 23, the largest gathering yet, proves the growing interest in the northern lights and the value of dark skies as a natural resource.